(491d) Standardization of Environmental Life Cycle Assessments of Biofuels in the Pan America Region
One of the key challenges for the evaluation of large-scale biofuels and bioenergy systems is understanding the environmental impacts of these renewable energy systems compared to a continued reliance on fossil energy. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides a comprehensive analysis of potential environmental effects across the entire production and utilization chain, yet there are many challenges and a wide variability in methodology such as data quality, impact indicators (environmental performance and impact categories), scale of production, system boundaries, co-product allocation, and other study features. The purpose of this article is to conduct a critical evaluation comparing environmental LCA of biofuels and bioenergy from several conversion pathways and in several countries in the Pan America region, and to make recommendations on a standardized guidance of LCA methodology with respect to inventory data, impact indicators, study assumptions and reporting practices. The environmental management implications of the proposed guidance will be discussed within the context of different national regulatory environments using case studies. The results from this study will help focus LCA research on gaps in knowledge and on high priority inputs and inventory data, and will lead to analyses of biofuel and bioenergy pathways with greater accuracy, transparency, and comparability across regions.